Brain training down on the farm with Ninja Ranch

Ninja Ranch is a new iOS game developed by Finblade and published by AppyNation. The game is a highly original puzzle title that challenges players to successfully house animals in limited space and claims to offer “endless replayability” thanks to randomly-generated levels.

The first thing to address about Ninja Ranch is its title. The very name of the game sounds like yet another generic social game that fuses together two “hilariously” incongruous concepts for rather predictable results. Those casually passing by Ninja Ranch in the App Store would be forgiven for assuming that it was yet another isometric-perspective farming game and not giving it a second thought — though those that did so would be missing out on a truly original, highly addictive puzzle game that deserves a place on everyone’s iOS device.

Ninja Ranch tasks players with building fields on a grid by tapping and dragging to create squares and rectangles. Scattered over the grid are stones with numbers printed on them. Each field must contain only one stone and must be made up of the number of squares noted on the stone. To complete the level, all squares on the grid must be accounted for, preferably as quickly and with as few mistakes made along the way as possible. Upon successfully completing a level, players are awarded with virtual currency and are then invited to either try the level again or generate a new one for a small in-game currency fee. Bonuses are provided according to how quickly players managed to complete the level and whether or not they had to “redraw” fields due to mistakes, and a “daily spin” option gives players the opportunity to earn additional coins once per day. Coins — which, naturally, can also be acquired via in-app purchases — may be spent on new animals to appear in the fields as well as small changes to the aesthetic. One purchasable item causes the animals to develop a bad case of flatulence, for example, while others simply replace the backdrop.

The gameplay is solid, frustrating (in a good way) and immensely addictive. The only really questionable aspect of the game is the “Ninja” part — it is completely irrelevant to the gameplay and simply appears to serve as an excuse for an arguably mildly racist intro sequence upon starting the game for the first time, and a stereotypical “far eastern” audio-visual aesthetic to the menus. The game also features a viral promotion facility, allowing players to tweet a fake “proverb of the day” using iOS 5’s built-in Twitter facility. There is also Game Center support for achievements — there are no leaderboards, as the randomly-generated nature of the levels would make them largely meaningless.

Ninja Ranch is an excellent game that deserves to enjoy some success. Its free-to-play component is generous, while those willing to reach for the credit card will find themselves with plenty of content to unlock. Monetization is unobtrusive and the game isn’t blighted with advertising, making it very player-friendly even for non-paying users. Most importantly, however, it provides an original experience that isn’t simply another “me too!” clone of a more successful title on the App Store. That alone makes the game worthy of celebration, despite certain questionable aspects of its content and its generic-sounding title.

Ninja Ranch is available now in both iPhone and iPad versions. Neither version is listed on our tracking service AppData as yet due to the game’s recent release — check back shortly to follow their progress through the App Store charts.